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April 1997

Anne Heche & Ellen DeGeneres
Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres
Archive Photos

1
Christopher “Kit” Culkin withdraws from a custody case and gives sole custody of Macaulay and his six siblings to the children's mother, Patricia Brentrup. Kit Culkin said he was trying to save the family from continued pain. The family has been dogged by financial problems.
The Writers Guild of America restores screenwriting credits on 24 films to 10 blacklisted writers who were forced to use pseudonyms when the House Un-American Activities Committee began its investigation into Hollywood. Movie studios will change the credits on new prints of films and new videos. The films and writers include The Robe, Albert Maltz; Inherit the Wind, Nedrick Young; and Born Free, Lester Cole.
CBS announces that former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley has signed on with the network as “essayist.” “He's going to go out and do essays about Americans and the issues that affect them, drawing on his experiences not only in politics but in life,” said CBS News President Andrew Heyward.
Sleepers, the 1996 Barry Levinson film, earns the distinction of being the first title to be offered on both videotape and the new digital video disk (DVD), which is touted for its superior visual capability.
2
Life After Death, the posthumous, double-CD release from slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace) debuts at the top of Billboard charts with almost 690,000 copies sold in its first week. Wallace was gunned down in Los Angeles on March 9.
3
The Federal Communications Commission votes to lend the country's 1,600 television stations a second channel to broadcast digital programming. The move to digital television will affect every U.S. household that owns a television set. By 2006, stations will broadcast on the digital channels only, and consumers will have to buy digital, high-definition television sets to receive programming. The FCC also orders affiliates of the top four networks in the top 10 markets to begin broadcasting digital programming within two years. More than half of U.S. households will be able to receive digital programming by the end of 1999. Electronics manufacturers expect the wide-screen, interactive televisions to be the hot-selling item for Christmas 1998.
ABC pulls out of negotiations with Roseanne for a new show for the fall 1997 season. This is the last season of Roseanne, but the cheeky star has plans for a spinoff.
Disney/ABC News announces plans to launch a 24-hour on-line news service later this month with America Online, Netscape Communications and the Starwave Corporation. Disney also announces its acquisition of a controlling stake in Internet publisher Starwave.
America Online reaches a preliminary agreement in a national class-action lawsuit filed by frustrated subscribers who were unable to connect to the on-line service. AOL agrees to make refunds and credit subscribers.
6
Time magazine reports that Ellen DeGeneres revealed in an interview that she is a lesbian. What a surprise.
With the goal of linking the television and computer industries, software giant Microsoft Corp. acquires WebTV Networks Inc. for $425 million.
7
Oasis singer Liam Gallagher and actress Patsy Kensit exchange wedding vows in a private London ceremony. Extravagant wedding plans were scrapped in February after an onslaught of media attention.
8
NBC finally gives Conan O'Brien the vote of confidence he deserves, signing the carrot-topped late-night host to a five-year contract worth $2 million a year.
Roseanne and her show's producing company, Carsey-Werner, decide not to pursue a spinoff of the star's eponymous series. Networks said the price and risk were too high.
9
After 12 years together, members of the Seattle-based rock band Soundgarden call it quits. A statement issued by A&M Records describes the breakup as “amicable and mutual.” Soundgarden won two Grammy Awards for the 1994 album Superunknown.
10
House Republicans vow to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, calling it “an elite bureaucracy that promotes obscene and blasphemous works.”
11
Tony Randall's wife, Heather, gives birth to the couple's first child, Julia Laurette Randall. Tony, 77, and Heather, 27, met at Randall's National Actors Theatre.
14
Billy Bob Thornton's moment in the sun takes a dark turn. The Oscar winner's wife, Pietra Thornton, files for divorce, claiming her husband has physically abused her since 1992. The couple has two children.
17
Meadowlands officials insist that Ozzie Osbourne remove shock rockers Marilyn Manson from his June 15 concert bill or else the entire OzzFest show will be scrapped. Osbourne says he will sue the state of New Jersey.
18
Loews Theaters in Manhattan raises movie ticket prices to $8.75 from $8.50. Sony Lincoln Square follows suit, boosting their prices to a whopping $9. The national average is $4.41.
19
Love is in the air. Brooke Shields and Andre Agassi are married after a two-year engagement. Boy Wonder Chris O'Donnell and kindergarten teacher Caroline Fentress also tie the knot.
21
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service rejects jazz musician Arturo Sandoval's request for citizenship because he had been a member of the Cuban Communist party. Sandoval defected to the United States in 1990.
The Richmond, Virginia, City Council overturns an earlier decision and gives shock rockers Marilyn Manson the go-ahead to perform at the Richmond Coliseum on May 10.
22
The New York Post reports that 42-year-old Jerry Seinfeld and 21-year-old Shoshanna Lonstein ended their 5-year relationship back in February. The couple managed to keep their split quiet for two months.
23
Alan Gerry, a former cable-television executive, announces plans to build a year-round performing arts center on the 40-acre Woodstock, New York, field that hosted the famed 1969 Summer of Love festival. That means we don't have to worry about Woodstock III.
24
The Texas Senate unanimously passes a bill that requires state entities to divest from companies that are associated with offensive lyrics. The bill defines offensive lyrics as, “those depicting acts of criminal violence, including murder and assault; necrophilia, bestiality or pedophilia; illegal use of controlled substances; criminal street-gang activity; degradation or denigration of females; or violence against a particular sex, race or ethnic group.”
25
Anne Heche confirms her lesbian relationship with Ellen DeGeneres. The news, which isn't really news since the two have recently been seen smooching in public, sends Hollywood for a loop. There's plenty of media speculation about how coming out will affect Heche's future as a leading lady.
26
Mariah Carey and her producer, Walter Afanasieff, engage in a bitter, embarrassing tiff on a New York City street that results in Afanasieff's firing.
27
U2 kicks off its high-tech PopMart tour in Las Vegas. The band performs in front of a 100-foot high golden arch (with the blessing of McDonald's), a 170-by-56-foot video screen and several enormous, campy cocktail accessories. The aging rockers plan to hit 80 cities in their 14-month international jaunt.
28
Kathie Lee Gifford found out the hard way that it doesn't hurt to do a little research. While interviewing guest James Taylor, she inquired about his older brother, Alex. James replied, “I wish I could say he was doing well. . . . Alex died about four years ago.”
Metromedia International Group sells its film and television units to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $573 million in cash. The transaction makes MGM's film library the largest in the world.
29
After reading Dennis Rodman's raunchy new book, Walk on the Wild Side, Oprah Winfrey cancels Rodman's scheduled appearance on her show saying, “We decided it would be inappropriate to promote [the book] to our viewers.” In his tell-all tale, Rodman reveals he had an affair with a transsexual and has plans to change his name to “Orgasm.”
Congress awards Frank Sinatra a Congressional Gold Medal for his singing, acting and humanitarian accomplishments.
30
Finally, Ellen Morgan comes out of the closet on Ellen. The daffy bookstore manager is the first gay lead character on a prime-time show. Forty-two million viewers watch the show that the New York Times praises for its “wit and poignancy.” The show's star, Ellen DeGeneres, and her partner, Anne Heche, appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Heche reveals that she wasn't interested in women until she met DeGeneres. Winfrey appeared in the coming-out episode as Ellen's therapist.
In an attempt to keep viewers over the summer months, Fox announces a summer lineup of 40 percent original programming. Because broadcast networks run repeats during the summer months, the networks have historically lost audiences to cable.

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

March 1997The Year in Entertainment: 1997May 1997

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